This study assesses the survival of Phytophthora ramorum in the root ball of Rhododendron container plants as well as in different rootless forest substrates and a horticultural potting medium. Following inoculation of the root balls, the aboveground plant parts stayed symptomless, whilst the pathogen could be recovered with a novel non-destructive baiting assay from the root balls until at least 8 months post-inoculation. Plating of surface-sterilized roots and direct microscopic analysis confirmed the presence of P. ramorum in the roots. Phytophthora ramorum could also be baited from the root balls of symptomless Rhododendron plants from commercial nurseries, even 2 years after acquisition. Survival of P. ramorum in rootless media was assessed after burying disks of infected leaf material below the soil surface in columns filled with four different undisturbed forest substrates or a potting medium, and incubated at an outdoor quarantine facility. Phytophthora ramorum could be recovered at least 33 months after burial from all substrates, with a significant increase in recovery after the winter period. These data suggest the possibility for long-term symptomless presence of P. ramorum in root balls of commercial Rhododendron plants as well as survival in potting medium and different forest substrates under western European climate conditions. Symptomless presence in root balls can contribute to latent spread of this pathogen between nurseries. The novel baiting test, being non-destructive, simple and applicable to a relatively large number of plants, can offer a valuable tool to test plants for the presence of Phytophthora species in root balls.